The Top Ten Myths of SC

By Andrew Jones

November 11, 2011

SC11, the world’s greatest yearly supercomputing show rolls into Seattle this week. To help prepare you for the big week, we have put together a list of the top 10 myths of the phenomenon that is SC. With a little discussion of each, hopefully we will bring out the good, the bad, the hopes and realities of SC. And, maybe, along the way we’ll see why SC matters so much to our community.

Myth 1: It’s all partying

Yes, it’s true, there are lots of networking receptions, meetings-over-a-drink, and business dinners held during the week of SC. Perhaps even one or two events that struggle to be described as anything other than a party. But hold on before you dismiss SC as merely a week of parties with a conference somewhere in the background. There will be several thousand attendees, over a hundred technical sessions, around 300 exhibition booths, and hundreds of hours of meetings held in the surrounding hotels and venues.

Before the exhibition has its grand opening on Monday evening, hundreds of staff from exhibiting organizations will have been working hard over the weekend to setup booths and demos. Lots of people will also have been attending tutorials, workshops, vendor meetings, and private business meetings over the weekend. So, for many attending SC11, Monday night is halfway into the week – not the first day – and a desire to wind down with a drink and friends is only fair.

Likewise, each day, people will have had to endure hours standing on booths sustaining extreme enthusiasm for their products, or sitting through slide decks that oscillate between no useful detail and far too much detail, or searching the exhibition or technical program for a solution to a problem they’re not sure they have yet. A sponsored social gathering is a good way to relax after all that – or to engage with more contacts if you are still feeling workaholic.

Myth 2: HPC center directors wander the exhibition floor with $100m to spend

Although every salesperson attending SC dreams of the big opportunity arriving from a casual encounter on the booth, I would bet that most people with $100m to spend have booked up a series of meetings with potential suppliers. After all, if you had given somebody that much money to spend, you’d hope they had a better procurement plan than to simply wander about the exhibit hall looking for a shiny toy that caught their attention?

Of course, in most cases, the supercomputer center directors don’t have the money to spend – government funding agencies have money to spend, supercomputer centers just help them spend it! Some government funding agencies use specialist advisors (like NAG or other independent consultants) to scout the market at SC to inform and plan for big procurements. In most cases, a competitive procurement process will actually spend the money – although meetings with vendors at SC are often used to support that process. But it is very rare that the $100m check is signed or announced at SC itself.

Myth 3: Industrial users of HPC have money to spend on every latest software gadget

It’s a popular hope of anyone selling products and solutions – especially in the niche software space. Especially those who think their niche is the answer to a perceived industry wide problem. Or those in the academic sector, who, against the challenges of sustaining software in the academic funding environment, turn in hope to industry as a promised land of plenty. Industry has untapped reserves of money. Or not.

Often users of HPC in industry are focused in small groups within companies and have operating budgets that would make national labs and academics cringe. Investing in software in industry can be a cultural and funding “adventure” too. The difference (to paint the extremes of the picture) is that the academic reward and funding system is determined to invest in new methods and implementations wherever possible (“research”) and avoid re-use or ongoing evolution, whereas the common industrial environment is determined to avoid investing in new software or major re-developments unless re-use or evolution is overpoweringly ineffective.

I have made these extremes with artistic license, but they serve the point – balance in speculation and stability is required – and software strategy is usually key to that balance in HPC.

Myth 4: Everyone knows everyone

Don’t be silly. It’s often said – I say it too – “supercomputing is a small community”. The extension, “everyone knows everyone” is stretching the credibility though, with several thousand attendees at SC11. But, there is a large degree of interconnection in the supercomputing community and so the community often feels close and small. Within the overall HPC world, there are a significant number of people who are very active and meet many times a year between SCs.

However, focusing only on those high profile members of the HPC world would be detrimental to the overall SC11 audience – many of whom will be new to HPC or on the peripherals of the traditional HPC community. SC must – and does – support all parts of the potential HPC community – new entrants, established centers, high profile researchers, and observers considering how HPC can help them. SC11 is a very social and friendly event for those who are seasoned HPC professionals – but we must make sure those who have poked a tentative toe in the water feel welcome and not overwhelmed.

Myth 5: SC week is the best time to issue a press release

Yes, it is. In the same sense that the best place to exhibit a tree is in the forest. You’d better have an impressive tree compared to the others – otherwise it’s just a tree with all detail forgotten. Each year, SC brings forth a flood of press releases, case studies, and so on. The only advantage to issuing your press release during SC itself is that, briefly, some of the core IT and even mainstream media spare some attention for supercomputing, so if you hit lucky you get a wider audience than normally.

But most press releases will simply be another small bubble in the seething froth of news frenzy that surrounds SC11 week. Plus, so many of your potential audience will be too busy creating their own news or standing on booths or in meetings to read anyone else’s news. Unless it’s big news of course. SC is a great time to spread and collect rumors though. Much more fun than factual press releases 🙂

Myth 6: You can sustain 30+ meetings in a week and still be paying attention to that roadmap detail presentation on the last day

Do I really need to explain that one? See my SC11 diary series for what goes into some people’s SC11 planning. By Thursday afternoon’s presentation, vendor A’s plans to bring out widget B in 2019 with a feature of C=1.00234 rather than someone else’s 1.00235 is hard to focus on, compared to the impending flight home.

Myth 7: The technical program is the most important part of SC11

Not if you have $100m to spend on a supercomputer! Best to walk the show floor 🙂 or book some meetings with potential suppliers and your favorite HPC consultants. Joking aside, the technical program is actually very important. The competition for papers at SC is intense, which is promising for quality, plus there is a wide range of tutorials and workshops. Thus, there are excellent opportunities to catch up on the latest advances in HPC, learn new skills or disseminate your work.

But even the most academically focused attendee should never ignore the other two key parts of SC – the exhibition and the social/networking events. The exhibition can often provide as many gems of innovation as the technical program. Collaborations are sparked by conversations on the exhibition floor or at the social events.

Myth 8: The exhibition is the most important part of SC11

The exhibition can be a hive of activity – at its peak (Monday night’s grand opening) easily the most vibrant single event of the show, in my opinion beating even the technical program keynotes. The exhibition can also feel like a ghost town at times, with seemingly the only people in the vast hall those who have drawn booth duty.

Most of the time it is somewhere between the two, a steady stream of punters drifting or hurrying along the carpets, with eager booth personnel trying to woo them with logo’d giveaways, sweet smiles, or entrapping questions. But, as above, the exhibition is only one of the three important parts of SC – and the technical program and social events are just as important.

Myth 9: The whole HPC world will be at SC

Much as the organizers would like everyone associated with buying, using, selling or researching HPC products, technologies and services to attend, that is not the reality. As I wrote on my blog recently, there are many people for whom HPC is an essential part of their work or toolset, but is not an end in itself and thus SC is not a core event for them. Even within the community of HPC practitioners or researchers, many cannot attend SC every year.

But, against that, a huge proportion of the active HPC world will be at SC11 – most organizations providing HPC technologies, software, services, or research will be represented at SC11. So it will feel like the whole HPC world is in Seattle. And that’s the core attraction of SC – so many collaborators, prospects, potential solution providers, and contacts will there that it is hard to justify staying away.

Myth 10: The best SC11 myth of all …

To be told in person only. Find me in Seattle and I’ll tell you!

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: Fugaku, Congress, De Novo Design & More

July 2, 2020

Supercomputing, big data and artificial intelligence are crucial tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world, researchers, corporations and governments are urgently devoting their computing reso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time last year, IBM announced open sourcing its Power instructio Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Career Notes: July 2020 Edition

July 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

Supercomputers Enable Radical, Promising New COVID-19 Drug Development Approach

July 1, 2020

Around the world, innumerable supercomputers are sifting through billions of molecules in a desperate search for a viable therapeutic to treat COVID-19. Those molecules are pulled from enormous databases of known compoun Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC-Powered Simulations Reveal a Looming Climatic Threat to Vital Monsoon Seasons

June 30, 2020

As June draws to a close, eyes are turning to the latter half of the year – and with it, the monsoon and hurricane seasons that can prove vital or devastating for many of the world’s coastal communities. Now, climate Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This year is no different though the conversion of ISC to a digital Read more…

By John Russell

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hoefler’s Whirlwind ISC20 Virtual Tour of ML Trends in 9 Slides

June 23, 2020

The ISC20 experience this year via livestreaming and pre-recordings is interesting and perhaps a bit odd. That said presenters’ efforts to condense their comments makes for economic use of your time. Torsten Hoefler’s whirlwind 12-minute tour of ML is a great example. Hoefler, leader of the planned ISC20 Machine Learning... Read more…

By John Russell

At ISC, the Fight Against COVID-19 Took the Stage – and Yes, Fugaku Was There

June 23, 2020

With over nine million infected and nearly half a million dead, the COVID-19 pandemic has seized the world’s attention for several months. It has also dominat Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This